We are born alone, live alone, die alone. My existential existence might be an excuse. I am really an individual or just too scared to trust other people.
I met this man. Just once. Just six and twenty crazy hours of being with someone who accepted me. He didn’t just accept me for being me, though that in itself would be awesome, he accepted me into his life. He moved over and made some space for me and without words he said walk with me a while.
I love words but he showed me in his deeds who he thinks I am. He sees a me I haven’t seen. He knows a someone I had forgotten I once wanted to be. When he left me, he didn’t leave because he lingers in my mind.
I met this man. Just once. I was born alone and I might die alone but I think I might want to walk with him a while. I won’t throw caution to the wind but I might put it away along with my fears and live life. I will meet this man again but he has already changed my existence.
When I look inside myself I am constantly disappointed. I want to be a better person, so why do I fail? Surely at 51, I should be who I want to be.
I suppose I should contextualise this. I am not a bad person. I teach in secondary school and I am considered to be a fair teacher. I am not popular or cool, but I think most of my pupils view me as a kindly soul.
Outside of work I am not an axe murderer. I have a few good friends. I don’t steal, and I am as honest a man as you are ever likely to meet.
It is this honesty that is my downfall. Because it is combined with an analytical capability to finely dissect the events of the day, each day’s weaknesses are laid bare. My Aspergerian compassion is applied with its usual “could do better” assessment, so I judge myself, over and over again, as lacking.
Though I claim not to aspire to sainthood, I indulge in this mental flagellation over my inability to epitomise perfection. I have hurt myself over the years and at times, withdrawing to lick the wounds I try to keep hidden, have hurt those who tried to comfort me.
I don’t know if I can change. However this is my start. My biggest weakness is not that I don’t accept others, it is that I do not truly accept myself. If I say that out loud, perhaps it will scare me less. If I acknowledge it perhaps you will scare me less when you notice. If I am not scared perhaps I will allow you to help me.
I will never be perfect. I may never be a better person than I am now. Accepting that, however, might just make me a happier one.
I no longer mark time. Time is very different here. The punctuations I took for granted have gone. Now time doesn’t comma or full stop.
You see things differently at a distance. The detail is lost but the panorama allows each piece a place, and the whole is quite unlike the parts.
Once there were four seasons. Nature kept my clock ticking. Larks and robins, buds and falling leaves, late sunsets and dark mornings, each a reminder and each setting me in a context. Here it’s hot. Sometimes it’s wet. It’s light for breakfast and dark for dinner. A year can pass unnoticed.
The seasons come with much more. Emotionally I used to shift. I was carefree in June, melancholy in November and oh so hopeful in March. Activities would change. Life would move to the garden, the balcony or the beach for the brief halcyon summer before beating a retreat to log fires and drawn curtains. My friends are far from me so birthdays are Facebook updates and Christmas isn’t coming. Now that I am no longer on it, I can see I was immersed in a cultural calendar.
My days run on like badly constructed sentences, weeks are just ill defined paragraphs and without the seasons there are no chapters. I am in a stream of consciousness and living in the now because the passing of my time is no longer marked.
Between us, there is never any friction. I am accepted as I am. I love as I do and I feel love in return. Springs of glorious warm love surround me in a world that often seems glacial.
These people, these few people I call friends, they seem to see the world differently. We are not kindred spirits and there has never been another pea in my pod, yet the ties are there. Strong enough to withstand the challenges and soft and pliable enough to not feel constricting.
To other people they just seem ordinary. Leading busy lives and juggling the demands of life, they live in the chaos of normality. I am removed. I part myself and park myself on the edges. I bristle where others are smooth and readily answer from my heart without filtering, purifying or distilling my emotions. These people, my friends, they come and sit a while in my world.
The Asperger Path is straight and narrow. It’s monochromatic on bad days but rainbow disarrayed on happy ones. My friends don’t seem to notice I’m different. Maybe they do and they just don’t mind. They seem immune to the irritation I create in others. We are all unique. Perhaps everyone is on the spectrum and has worries doubts and anxieties.
Maybe Aspergers is no more a syndrome than gregariousness. Maybe suffering from a malaise or being blessed with gifts is actually the same thing. My gift is to be lost in the hot springs and forget the glacier that surrounds me.
I don’t make friends easily. What I find hard to understand is why I would want to. What is a friend is not someone to love and trust. Friendships are as complex as a well written book and not a throwaway thought you find in a celebrity magazine or an online blog.
Maybe it’s semantics, but for me the word friend is something special. In my mind, it conjures up people who I can laugh and relax with. Someone I can talk to about anything. A person that has and brings meaning to my life. Other people think I should have more friends. Personality surveys score me low on friendliness and gregariousness. I will not apologise because I am not unfriendly nor am I unkind. I just don’t make myself available to all and sundry.
Most of the people I know are distant or are kept distant. I think of them as acquaintances. People to share a coffee or an anecdote in my daily life. My work colleagues are great people and I would do a lot for them. However they are not the people I love or confide in. They are like magazines in a waiting room. They can be picked up and put down and they are not something I have chosen.
I love my friends. I love the small group of people that I share my secret inner world with. Some of my friends are like me and have equally small friend networks but others have vast swathes of friends. What they all have in common is spending time with me one to one and doing quiet things. My few friendships are all unique but each relationship is built on a firm foundation of love, trust and honesty. I know my friends like my my favourite novels. They are there to be read and reread, to be held in my heart with favourite scenes that live in the memory.
We are all different. I will keep my favourite books in my heart always. Not a library, but just few carefully selected titles that have changed my world.
Living in the Emerald City, where life is fast, can leave the best of us feeling a little bruised and battered. The cut and thrust of life is a double edged sword of dangerous excitement. The Asperger Path, like the Yellow Brick Road, has its pitfalls so I need to be more careful with my forays.
The first thing I need to remember is my emotional armour. I am strong and capable, but if I don’t head out prepared and protected, it is inevitable that I will get hurt. A little veneer, preferably wipe clean, can keep the city at a slight remove. I’m not talking about walling myself in, but maybe I could erect a fence to chat over before I invite my neighbour in.
I also need to manage my expectations. Life isn’t actually any better here than it was in nowhere. It’s just different. It’s still allowed to live a quiet life. The hot spots are not compulsory and it’s fine to leave when I find my senses are battered rather than stimulated. Sometimes those bright lights are blinding to hide the emptiness.
Most importantly I need to remember that good people will find me. They always have and they always will. I may be a small fish in this ocean of a city but not everyone is swimming with sharks.
If this is the return to Oz, I must be patient. I have my heart and brains and even though I’m not lionhearted I have the courage I need to manage the big city life. This friend of Dorothy is in no place like home, but a little time and a few friends can make all the difference.
I need some new friends. However this is not an online advertisement, because I am going out and looking in person. No application is necessary.
For many years I have sought solitude whilst avoiding loneliness. Gaps have been filled with social media and dating apps. I have chased the not yet known, but I ended up in cycle of meaningless encounters and superficial conversations. People who couldn’t care if I lived or died became my reason for being.
Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and time spent with them is fruitful. However, I have just moved to a new city and have decided to take no short cuts.
So, here I am, lunching alone, having met no one for a coffee earlier. I haven’t met anyone online or had a virtual chat with real stranger.
It feels rather odd, but in the long term this will be good. It’s time find common ground with people I can rely on. It’s time to then put those people centre stage and work at building a life that is more meaningful. It will take a while, but how much time have I already wasted on those fruitless applications that got me nowhere.
No matter how many times you tell people that you see the world differently, every time they notice it they express some concern. Or maybe expressing concern is one of those concepts I just don’t grasp.
People are often surprised by the things I say or do. My usual response is to assume that as I take full responsibility for my own life, their surprise is an issue for them. John Donne once concluded that no man is an island, but that does not mean that every man is traffic junction.
Sometimes people think they hear the toll of the bell. It might just be the wind chimes of my imagination or the tapping of my thumb on the information superhighway.
I am a little disconnected but I am concerned for my fellow man. However, my communication can sometimes be a little sparse or scrambled. We are all different, special and unique. No man is an island but allow me a moat.
I washed up here on a tide. A star crazed traveller who got marooned in happiness. My rolling stone stopped to gather a little moss but now I am rested and my ocean soul is in flood.
The silvered moon is pulling me away. Taunting me to be anywhere but still, she disturbs my restful surface. Light is shined into my depths and pinpoint my moorings which are not too firmly fixed.
So I follow the capricious moon, waxing and waning through life. Not for me the trappings of comfort and peace, for I am touched with wanderlust. Each man is made different and I was born under a beautiful lonely spell. But do not cry for me. I am the happy lunatic who dances where the wind blows. Love me while I am here, for I will be gone. I love you now but now is not tomorrow. The tide is turning and my path is written in shifting patterns of stardust. But when the night is cold and clear and the moon invades your window, look up, for I will be the dancing man in the moon.
Some days, I am not on the ball. I start to doubt myself, my performance at work, and then my place in this universe. Some days, I am surrounded by beautiful friends who cheer me with their humour and delightful tales of life from the wryest of perspectives. Some days, my friends aren't in the best of moods and it is my turn to balance that aforementioned ball on my nose and perform. I tell my tall tales and frivolously embroider my antics and anecdotes to create a happy tapestry to cheer up a pal in need. Some days, two friends are both in need. Those are the days when world feels like an ancient unoiled machine. Metal grates on metal and sparks fly. Axes get ground and yet no one cuts the air.
Today, I decided to take myself off on my bicycle to whirr my blues away. A friend rang and rang again. Texts started to ping. Then more calls. Eventually I stopped for rest. A text, a second, and then the third. The texts started with an invite and ended with insults. He was angry and, in not picking up, I had become his focus. I sent a text back. I tried to salve, but the oil for those troubled waters caused a flare up. I know he was drunk. He's always drunk. I know he needs a good friend, just as I know the company he craves will never cure his brand of lonely. However, I am not able to cater for that. Not today.
Today, I was not on the ball.